Saturday, September 07, 2013

What does it cost to be a disciple of Christ? (Sunday homily)

During Lent, we talk about “giving things up” and making sacrifices.
But what today’s Gospel makes clear is, that’s not just for Lent.
Because Lent isn’t just for Lent.

The point of what we do in Lent—
denying ourselves things we like, praying more, doing more for others—
is that Lent is a school for how to be a disciple.

What did we hear our Lord say in this Gospel?

Unless we do thus-and-so, “you cannot be my disciple.”

We have some other Christian groups, or pastors, will make a point—
sometimes on billboards and on TV—
about “no expectations; just come.”

But notice, that’s not what our Lord just said!
You want to be my disciple? The bar—the standard—is here.

First, he said, “hate your family and possessions, even your own life.”

Now, he doesn’t mean “hate” in the sense of contempt or rage—
he means what he says later: completely letting go of the attachment.

I always think about the story of St. Francis of Assisi.
His family was wealthy and his father wanted him to be part of that.
Francis wanted to live simply and focus on Christ.
And finally, Francis had to stand up to his father;
and in front of the bishop and the town,
he gave up everything—
he even took off his clothes and gave them back to his father.

That’s what Jesus is talking about.

Sometimes our children have different dreams from those of their parents—
sometimes they choose a course that means less money, or less prestige;
and if they choose the religious life or the priesthood,
then it means no grandchildren!

I’m sorry to say this, but I’ve had parents admit to me,
they have discouraged their children
from considering the priesthood or religious life,
because they want grandchildren.

And a lot more will do it but not admit it.

On Labor Day, I drove up to Piqua for a baptism.
The couple were friends of mine. They were married in 2004.
Nine years later, this was their first child.
All that time they prayed and cried to have a child.

That’s how I give my parents grandchildren.
And I do it in the confessional;
and I do when I visit the sick,
and every other way I help people find life in Christ.
And my parents—who, I hope, are both in heaven—
will be with those grandchildren forever.

The Lord says, “count the cost.”
If you build a tower, or you go to war, you count the cost.
Our politicians don’t do that—and just Jesus says, it doesn’t go well.

So he says to us: first count the cost of being my disciple.

And what does it cost?

Well, it costs something to help the poor.
If we obey Christ and wait till marriage, that costs us something.
One of the treasured possessions we love to cradle in our arms
is our own self-righteous fury. “How dare that person do that!”
That is one of the hardest possessions to renounce.
But to be his disciple? Give it up.

In a lot of places—Egypt, for example—
Christians are paying a huge cost.
Their jobs, their businesses, their families, their homes,
their churches and their lives.

In Germany—Germany!—a Christian family
saw the government storm their home
and take their four children away.

Their crime? In Germany it’s illegal
to educate your children at home.

We think, Oh it can’t happen here.
But it is.

In New Mexico, the Supreme Court said to a photographer,
You must take part in a same-sex wedding,
no matter what your conscience says.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the government’s mandate,
that religious institutions and businesses
provide contraception and abortion services as part of health care
is in the hands of the federal courts.

So, one way or the other, every one of us faces the question:
What will it cost to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Is it a good deal? Well, we get Christ himself;
we get our sins forgiven;
we get the Holy Spirit; and we get heaven.

Sounds like a good deal.

But there is a price:
just the whole of our lives—all we are.

Give it to Christ!

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